Ruling awaited in federal lawsuit over equal education access

The Southern Poverty Law Center is still awaiting a federal judge’s decision on whether to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges the state fails to provide all Mississippians access to a fair and uniform education as required under an 1869 federal law. In May, the group filed a lawsuit on behalf of four public school mothers arguing that the effects of decades-old efforts to preserve segregation in Mississippi public schools still exist in today’s education system. Congress passed the Mississippi’s Readmission Act in 1869, which established conditions for Mississippi to return to the United States after secession. The act stated “that the constitution of Mississippi shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the school rights and privileges secured by the constitution of said State.”

The lawsuit states that a new Mississippi constitution in 1890 and subsequent amendments to the constitution until 1987 violated that condition. “We are not asking this judge to tell Mississippi how to come into compliance with this obligation,” said Southern Poverty Law Center  senior staff attorney Will Bardwell at a coffee forum Thursday.

Four Mississippi districts taken off probation

Four public school districts in Mississippi regained their accreditation status Thursday. In October, the Commission on School Accreditation unveiled annual accreditation statuses for all public school districts, which are either accredited, on probation, or withdrawn. On Thursday, the commission approved the upgrade of Calhoun County, Humphreys County, Kemper County, and Wayne County School districts from probation status to fully accredited. For a district to remain accredited, it must be 100 percent compliant in all 32 state accreditation standards. Chief Accountability Officer Paula Vanderford told the commission that all four districts have either submitted documentation that clears the standards they were in violation of, or received a follow-up visit from the Mississippi Department of Education to verify they were compliant. A handful of districts remain on probation for 2017-18 school year:  Coahoma County School District, Coahoma County Agricultural School, Durant Public School District,  Jackson Public School District, Jefferson County School District, Leake County School District, McComb School District, Natchez-Adams School District and North Bolivar School District, Hazlehurst School District, Leland School District, West Bolivar School District, Yazoo City School District and Yazoo County School District. The commission also approved recommendations to change a few components of the state’s accountability system, which will be presented to the State Board of Education for approval in January.

Education department seeks parents’ help with state report card

The Mississippi Department of Education is asking parents for feedback on school district report cards. In a release sent Thursday, the department announced it is redesigning the Mississippi Report Card, an annual document that contains information about school and district demographics and academic performance. The survey responses will be used by the state Department of Education to “help redesign the format, content, and look of the report card.” The survey will help the department receive input from parents, along with stakeholder groups, and officials will also hold in-person focus group meetings “to determine exactly what data are most important and how best to present information in a way that is helpful to families and their communities,” according to the release. The deadline to complete the survey is Dec.

Lumumba nominates two more school board appointees

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has nominated two more people to serve on the board at Jackson Public Schools. The city council agenda for a Nov. 21 meeting lists Robert Luckett and Andrea Jones as two more Lumumba nominees for the JPS Board of Trustees, which the council must confirm before they can serve. Luckett is the director of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University, where he is also an associate professor of history. According to her LinkedIn profile, Jones is the instructional leader at Toot, Teach and Roll, a mobile learning lab that travels around the Jackson area to provide art education opportunities.